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Japan’s supreme strategy to resist China and contain Russia: the United Nations joins the Standing Committee

The foreign ministers of six G7 countries gathered at the G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the City Hall in Münster, Germany. (3 November 2022)
The foreign ministers of six G7 countries gathered at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the City Hall in Münster, Germany. (3 November 2022)

TAIPEI —Japan will assume the rotating presidency of the G7 and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council next year. Japan hopes to play a leading role in both institutions to put pressure on Russia. Experts believe that Japan is more suitable for permanent membership than Russia, but it is not easy to pass conditions such as constitutional amendments and changes to the UN Charter

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on December 9 to discuss the supply of weapons from the West to Ukraine. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenja, said at a meeting of the UN Security Council that the participation of the United States and other countries in guiding Ukraine’s weapons will have legal consequences.

Earlier, the third air base in Russia was attacked, which was the deepest counteroffensive on Russian soil since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war against Ukraine, and Moscow announced that it would take necessary measures against it.

In this regard, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on December 2 that Japan will put pressure on Russia by assuming the G7 presidency next year and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Lin Fangzheng pointed out that threatening the foundations of the international order is unacceptable behavior and stated that the reform of the United Nations will be strengthened.

Japan will serve as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a two-year term beginning in January 2023. This is also the twelfth time that Japan has become a non-permanent member of the Security Council since joining the United Nations in 1956, the most among the United Nations memberships.

Saho Matsumoto, a professor at Nihon University’s Faculty of International Relations, believes that Japan is extremely wary of Russia’s attempts to change the status quo by force, because if the international community tolerates such violence by Russia, China will consider aggression against Taiwan acceptable. Moreover, Russia’s status as a permanent member of the United Nations is a big problem, because countries that disrupt the existing international order are not eligible to become permanent members, compared to Japan, which is more suitable for permanent membership.

Matsumoto Saho told the media: “Russia does not comply with the rules of the United Nations, arbitrarily violates international rules to invade Ukraine, and should not be a permanent member at all.” On the other hand, Japan has made rapid progress after the war, acted in accordance with the rules in the international community, and invested considerable resources and efforts in maintaining international peace for a long time. In such a stark contrast, it makes sense for Japan to replace Russia as a permanent member. ”

Matsumoto Saho said that in fact, Japan has not only begun to express its desire to become a permanent member of the United Nations, but this requirement has also been put forward since more than a decade ago, and the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war this year has become a time to stimulate the international community to face up to this problem.

Hsieh Wensheng, an expert on Japan-China relations and executive director of Taiwan’s Oasis Cultural and Educational Foundation, pointed out in an interview with the media that Japan has provided huge amounts of money to the United Nations for many years, and until 2000, it accounted for 20% of the United Nations budget, second only to the United States. Even though funding has fallen to about 8% in recent years, it is still the third largest donor to the country, so Japan, since recovering from the postwar recession in the 1960s, has hoped to achieve international standing in the United Nations commensurate with its economic strength. That is why Japan was elected to a non-permanent seat for the first time in 1958, after joining the United Nations in 1956. He said that the recent rapid changes in the military power gap between the United States and China have contributed to the opportunity and necessity for Japan to enhance its international status.

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Hsieh Wen-sheng, CEO of Taiwan Oasis Cultural and Educational Foundation said: “Whether the national strength of the United States has changed in recent years, or whether it is willing to become the world’s policeman, there is more room for Japan to assume a leading role in the world.” In particular, the growing threat of China’s use of force to change the international and regional status quo has made it all the more urgent for Japan to play a role as one of the international leaders. Therefore, Japan’s pursuit of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, in terms of the psychological factors of the people, can be said that the UN membership is the last mile of Japan’s pursuit of “national normalization.” ”

Xie Wensheng pointed out that in the so-called “world under siege” situation, in fact, Japan’s implementation is more active and comprehensive than that of the United States, not only in Southeast Asia, but also in the South Pacific island countries, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and even South America.

Huang Huihua, an associate researcher at Taiwan’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, believes that if Japan wants to become a world leader, the Japan-US alliance plays a key role. Under the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan’s position in support of the United States has not changed, so Japan has continuously strengthened its strategic cooperation with the United States and developed its strength in the field of diplomacy and security. She believes that it is a pity that Japan’s ability to cooperate with foreign security is still limited by Article 9 of the Constitution, and this issue has always been a stumbling block for Japan to enhance security cooperation.

Huang Huihua, Associate Fellow, at Taiwan Institute for International Strategy, told the media: “The Liberal Democratic Party’s big victory in the House of Councillors election in July this year has broken through the threshold of a constitutional amendment. If this constitutional amendment is successful, it will affect Japan, the Indo-Pacific region, and the world, and for Japan, the constitutional amendment has many benefits, including the ability to disarm the Self-Defense Forces, break the restrictions on security cooperation between Japan and other countries, and the US-Japan alliance can also legally act together, allowing Japan to play an important role in the international community, and consolidating the position of the Liberal Democratic Party in power. Constitutional

Amendments and provisions of the UN Charter

Japan’s House of Councillors was re-elected on July 10, and the LDP won a resounding victory, winning 63 seats alone, including the Komeito Party, for a total of 93 seats, plus non-re-election seats, giving the ruling coalition two-thirds of the seats needed to cross the threshold of a constitutional amendment.

In the 90s, Japan proposed to become a permanent member of the Security Council, but the US Senate did not support it at that time, on the grounds that according to the Japanese Constitution, Japan did not have the right to collective self-defense, could not participate in international military operations, and could not perform the Security Council’s international arbitration action. The United States believes that if Japan’s military cannot participate in war, it should not have the right to determine the participation of other countries armed forces.

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Hsieh Wensheng, executive director of Taiwan’s Oasis Cultural and Educational Foundation, pointed out that in order for Japan to become a permanent member, in addition to amending the constitution, it is also necessary to amend the UN Charter and delete the so-called “enemy state clause” set against Japan and Germany after the war. He said that although the attitude of the United States towards Japan’s becoming a permanent member of the Security Council has changed in recent years, including the high summit between Obama and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2015, or the high summit between Biden and Fumio Kishida in May this year, the United States has expressed support for Japan to become a permanent member, and the United Kingdom and Japan have become closer and closer in recent years, and will not oppose Japan’s entry into the normal state, but the main problem is stuck in China and Russia.

“Japan has been joining Germany, India, and Brazil to form a ‘four-nation alliance’ (collectively known as the G4) to jointly promote the proposal to increase the number of permanent members of the Security Council, but it is still fraught with difficulties. Perhaps only one day when Russia and China are caught up in the same dramatic changes as the 1990s and urgently need international assistance.

Matsumoto Saho, a scholar of international relations at

Nihon University believes that the “enemy state clause” formulated for defeated countries in World War II is not in line with the current international situation.

She said: “Although Japan was defeated in World War II, more than 70 years have passed, and the international situation has changed a lot. Russia and China, as permanent members, are both dictatorships, not democracies, and that’s a problem. The powers of the permanent members are great, and Russia and China have veto power and will exercise the veto power to block important proposals promoted by the United Nations.

Huang Huihua, an associate researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Taiwan, noted that on February 26 the United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s launch of a special military operation against Ukraine, Russia used its veto power to block the action. In a speech at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s congress, Kishida stressed that he “supports the reform of the United Nations Security Council and proposes to remove Russia from the list.”

“Because of Russia’s problems, Japan advocates reforming the United Nations,” she said. If Japan wants to remove Russia, it may face several challenges. First, the Council must have the consent of two-thirds of the members and the consent of the five permanent members, and Russia is currently a permanent member, so this is a difficult challenge. The

five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) have veto power, allowing them to veto non-procedural draft resolutions in order to achieve “great power unanimous” on mandatory Security Council resolutions.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, Russia has used its veto 143 times, making it the most used veto.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the United Nations on September 21 that he wanted to cancel Russia’s veto power in the UN Security Council.

Strengthen cooperation with other countries and cooperate in the system

On 26 April, the 193 member States of the United Nations adopted by consensus a reform resolution requiring the five permanent members of the Security Council to state the reasons for the veto when they use it in future votes.

The decision is not only to limit Russia’s use of the veto in possible future sanctions against Russia but also to address China’s human rights issues and the Taiwan Strait issue.

Analysts believe that as long as the relative power of the United States continues to decline and it is inevitable to cede a significant part of the weight of international organizations to China, Japan’s relationship with China, which is actively striving for membership, will be particularly delicate.

Huang Huihua, an associate researcher of Taiwan’s International Strategy Society, said that China’s attitude towards Japan is both good and confrontational.

She said: “China and Japan say that they want to establish Sino-Japanese relations as required by the new era. The so-called “new” means “good”, which means that Abe’s old Japan-China relations have passed, and good relations between the two countries are coming, which is Xi Jinping’s expectation for the Kishida government. During APEC this year, China expressed goodwill to meet with Kishida, adding that China and Japan have many common interests and cooperation space. ”

Huang Huihua believes that global geopolitical competition, sovereignty disputes, history, the Taiwan issue, human rights, and other challenges all affect the development of Japan-China relations, and it is difficult for the two sides to reach a consensus on these issues.

Saho Matsumoto, a professor at the Faculty of International Relations at Nihon University, believes that Japan and China do have some economic cooperation, but Japan is increasingly strengthening cooperation with other countries, which has a considerable balancing effect on China and plays an increasingly significant role in stabilizing the international social order.

“Especially in Asia, ASEAN is the most prominent, and Japan has selected countries that are less close to China to strengthen relations,” she said. For example, in violation of the ruling of the International Court of Justice, China has built artificial islands in the South China Sea as military bases, making the territorial disputes between the Philippines and China more intense, and the new Marcos Jr. government is closer to the United States, Japan has strengthened Japan-Philippines military cooperation and participated in many joint exercises between Japan, the United States, and the Philippines. On the other hand, Japan has long been strengthening relations with Canada and G7 countries, especially the United Kingdom after Brexit, so that European and American countries pay more attention to the security of the Indo-Pacific region and jointly balance China and Russia, which undermines the international order. ”

Matsumoto Saho said that the Kishida government is also actively improving relations between Japan and South Korea and will play an important role in balancing North Korea and China. In particular, the Kishida administration’s domestic approval rating is declining, and if it can leverage the diplomatic leadership of the G7 presidency and call for Japan’s presence as a democracy, it may increase its domestic support rating.

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